God only gives special children to special people. I hear it all the time. And I have had it said to me personally many times over the years, especially when we first received our diagnosis. It’s a well-meaning sentiment. And probably comes from a place of wanting the recipient to feel more self-assured in what lies ahead. Or maybe it’s because it’s something that we want to believe because it makes it easier to accept something hard. Many people do become special through having a child with special needs, but they usually don’t start that way. They grow in to it over a lifetime of learning at the feet of a very special tutor. The reality is, as evidenced by regular headlines filled with stories of abuse, abortion, neglect and mistreatment, no, God does not reserve special children for special people. He gives special children to ordinary people. I know, because he gave one to me.
The thing is, raising a child with special needs is hard. Brutally hard. And consequently, having a child with special needs will either make you, or break you. You either rise to the occasion and find a better version of yourself fashioned day by day by a special mentor. Or you drown. And the reality is, many people drown. And they take their children with them. But there is one thing that does make a difference. It’s not being inherently “special” somehow, but having a network of support. A teacher, a neighbor, a friend or family member, who say “we’ve got you,” and mean it, in more than just word.
When my son was born I was so overwhelmed. I didn’t feel special. I felt like I was drowning. In my overwhelmed state, unsure how I would deal with it all, Early Intervention came to my house one day. They suggested I read a huge list of technical books about my son’s condition, which would instruct me on every topic from nutrition and feeding, to communication and occupational therapy, all of which I would need to learn in order for my son to be successful. I felt the already encroaching flood waters starting to swallow me whole. But instead, someone dear to me stepped in and said, “I’ll order a set of those books for you. And I’ll order a set for me, too. I’ll read them with you, and we’ll learn everything together.” And suddenly, with that one gesture, I didn’t feel quite so alone. And the flood waters abated. Not because I felt special, but because I felt supported. Having people to walk various segments of the special needs journey with, is the thing that makes all the difference.
So next time you’re not sure how to fill the uncomfortable void of conversation when a friend tells you she is pregnant with, or has a child with special needs. Don’t tell her she is special. Tell her you’ll walk with her. Because God doesn’t give special children to special people. He gives special children to ordinary people. Who rise or fall with the help they receive from those around them. And with the right help, one day that person may very well become the special kind of person that people so often make reference to in those early days. But special doesn’t happen on it’s own. So don’t tell them they’re special. Tell them you’ll help. ©
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